Saturday, November 22, 2014

I Feel the Need...

I may say that I don't really care about pace, and of course care morning about how far I ran than how fast(ish) I ran it, but:
Wednesday Night:
4 miles, 45:58
This morning, same course:
Niiiiiiiiice.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Rocky Run 10K, Philadelphia



During my running career, there are two races in which I pulled an unexpectedly great performance completely out of my ass.  One was the 2012 Hershey 10K, which I PR'd in 52:33, a 10K time I had never, have never since, and probably will never again, come within 5 minutes of.  

The other was on Saturday, at the inaugural Rocky Run 10K.

I had no business -- no business whatsoever -- trying to run the 10K.  5K is the farthest I'd run since my surgery, and while I've finished that distance a few times without needing walk breaks, I usually needed to take a few, and I'd barely run the previous two weeks prior to this race (due to both some schedule issues and some motivational issues).  I'd needed several walk breaks during the third mile of a 3-mile run on the Wednesday night before the race.  On Saturday, I ran -- other than a stop to drink a cup of water and a short pause to tie a shoe -- 5 miles of this 10K before needing some walk breaks in the last 1.2.

I felt great during the race, and while I am a little sore after the race, it is not nearly as bad as I expected.  But most encouraging to me was that there was not even a hint of compartment syndrome pain, just normal soreness that I'd have after any run that was this challenging.

I couldn't be any more thrilled.  In the span of 1:12:54, my confidence level for the two half marathons I'm signed up for in the spring increased tenfold.  I need to train.  I know I'm not really trained to his level yet (I ran 4 miles on the Wednesday evening after the race, and while my knees hurt, there are again no compartment syndrome symptoms), and that the Celtic Solstice 5-miler in Baltimore's Druild Hill park will be (as "Druid Hill Park" implies) much hillier than this.  But for the first time in well over a year, it feel like longer distances are really possible again. 



But let's back up.

Race Day
Chris and I stayed with friends in south Philly, who kindly picked up our packets in addition to giving us some couch and floor space.  We left for the race, which had a 7:30am start time for the 5K, and an 8:15am start time for the 10K, which we were running, at 6:45, and were over by the starting area around 7:45.

It was freezing!  I like running in the cold, but temperatures were in the 20s and I am not very acclimated or in nearly as good a shape as I was in some of my past running winters, and I -- in my shorts, throwaway knit gloves, long-sleeve t-shirt -- was wishing I had my jacket, more serious gloves, and my cold-weather headband.  



Hilariously, our friends dressed as a chicken (him) and Rocky Balboa (her), hoping to win the race's costume contest by recreating the scene from Rocky II in which Rocky chases a chicken as part of his training.  There were plenty of Rockys, and well, that mostly it.  I did get passed by a few chickens (including my friend), a guy dressed as a giant piece of meat, and even 2 guys in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (representing, though, Rocky's turtles, Cuff and Link).

The race started promptly at 8:15.  I had been debating whether to run with Chris, how follows a modified Galloway plan in which she walks for a minute after every half mile, or use my own plan, a more informal approach of "run as much of the race as I can and then cross my fingers".  My legs felt good, and so I thought I'd run as much as I could without walk breaks.   

The 10K course is an out of back along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive (formerly West River Drive).  It was a pleasant, mostly flat course along the scenic Schuylkill River, with a decline down to MLK Dr. from the art museum, meaning an incline at the end.  

I started out at what I felt was a very cautious, measured pace, because I knew if if I went for my old 9-10 min mile pace, I'd have no shot of running most of a distance this far outside my comfort zone.  My strategy worked.  I felt great for the first 3.1 and had plenty left in the tank.  I felt like the second half of the race was more difficult...which I guess is always true on a flat-ish out and back.  Aside from a pause for a water break and a brief re-lacing of my right sneaker, I ran 5 miles before I needed to take a few walk breaks to finish the race.  But running into the sun was challenging.  I'd be lying if I said it was "hot", but the sun was very bright and I was sweating my butt off.  I took my long-sleeve t-shirt off and was more comfortable in just a sleeveless tech shirt, and very glad I didn't have any of my real cold-weather gear to carry.  Even 4 days later, my forehead still feel sunburned.

This race has a lot of personal baggage.  Even though it's across the river from the second half of the Philly Marathon, which follows Kelly Drive out to Manyunk and back, I still had that "running along the Schuykill and wondering if I had enough left to finish" feeling.  Indeed, in that same race back 2011, I remembered at mile 11 and 12, along the same place on MLK Drive, knowing that I felt decent, but not good enough to have the type of second 13.1 I was hoping for.  On the other hand, this time, there was no sign along MLK telling me that I had another 14 miles to run; I just got to run back up the hill toward the Art Museum and finish -- just like in the two Philly Halfs that I count among my best races.

This one is up there with my favorite finishes, even though I know I didn't really earn it.  It will probably be a few weeks before I'm trained up to run a 10K or even 5 miles, but knowing I ran this far without compartment syndrome pain was joyous, and I lost control of my emotions a bit as I came up toward and crossed the finish line.  I finished the Rocky Run 10K, but now my training for the Shamrock Half must begin in earnest.




Race Review
This was a really nice event.  Fun theme, fast, scenic course, great medal, DJ's playing inspirational hits from the Rocky movies along the course, ample port-o-potties at the start, and free photographs.   I'm not sure if this will be an "every year" race because of the logistical challenges of a Philly race (although I said I'd dress as Adrian next year to enhance my friends' costume contest chances), but I would definitely run this again.

There's a few constructive criticisms, though.
  • I'd space out the water stops differently -- there were 2 on the way out, quite close together, and only one on the way back.  I can't complain too much, I certainly could have brought my hydration belt
  • I think I'd send the starters off in a few more waves, it was a very crowded field
  • There was no food at the finish line, only water, or if there was food there wasn't enough of it or it wasn't well-marked. 

Overall, though, a great first-year event with great friends, and a race that definitely has meaning for me as I attempt to make up for lost time in my now three-year quest for revenge.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Down with Couch-to-5K!

Coolrunning.com's Couch-to-5K Program, I'm sure, has helped many, many people begin running and train for their first 5K.  It's been helping me go back from lazy, post-surgeried couch pototato to elite (ha!) marathoner in just a few short weeks.

Again, just kidding.  I've been doing the Couch-to-5K program since July 19, which is 8 weeks.  There were a few "weeks" of the program that I repeated because I felt like I was still struggling to complete them, and then held myself back again over the last two weeks because been sick with some bad summer cold or upper respiratory infection.  Basically, I've been stuck at "week 4" for about 3 weeks now.

And here's the thing -- I think, if I follow the plan, I always would be.  From weeks 1-3, I think the Couch-to-5K progresses pretty reasonably.  I felt like I needed a repeat of week 3, but then bumped myself up to week 4 and was able to complete several times with mixed success (again, allergies and respiratory illness make for bad training partners).  The jump to week 4, where you are running 5 minutes at a time and your walk breaks are NOTICEABLY shorter, is a big one, but I don't think unreasonable.

But there's the thing:  Week 5 is a bitch.

So let me get this straight, Couch-to-5K.  The longest you've had me run is 5 minutes, and one week later, I'm supposed to run TWO MILES?    The progression to those first two workouts of week 5 seems reasonable, but going from running 8 minutes twice with a 5-minute walk in the middle to running for 20 minutes?  It seems like there needs to be another week or two of transition in there.

 Oddly, it seems like once cross this gulf, the plan proceeds pretty reasonably once again, and it seems like the plan is transitioning the trainee from a program of 3 equal workouts per week to two run/walk workouts and then a "long run", which is how must runners train for longer races.  So, in breaking this down and criticizing it, I do think I see the logic behind it.

At any rate, I feel like I could do week 4 over and over and not really be ready for week 5.  It just doesn't seem like, without doing a lot of other cardio (and maybe that's the point, that I should be!) this this is big leap forward to be expected of new runners. 

So, this is where I get off, Couch-to-5K.  I'm back on the "Run half a mile, walk for a minute, run half a mile" plan that Chris and I have used on the 5Ks I've run w/her the past year and a half.  I used this back in January to try to train myself back up, hoping that I'd successfully physical therapy'd myself through injury. I've done this twice now this week, and there was noticeable improvement the second time, but I suspect it had more to do with the weather being 20 degrees cooler than any actual improvement in fitness on my part from Wednesday evening to Saturday morning.

Basically, what happens is I'll do this as-is for a week or two, then hopefully be able to get through the first mile with no walk breaks, but probably still need them on the second mile.  Then, hopefully, the next week or two I'd need the walk break at the end of the first mile, but then be able to get the second mile without walking.  When I can run 2 miles with no walk breaks, I add some back in and try for 3, and after a few weeks of this, I can hopefully run a 5K again.

So yeah, kind of like the Couch-to-5K.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

I don't mean to be bury the lead.  I hate when the Orioles text messages that I get from the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network read "Jones hits two hits in 7-2 loss to cubs", but here I am doing the same thing.

After a great long weekend in Atlantic City, where I finished my first post-surgery 5K and just had probably the most fun weekend of the year, I'm going to write about how frustrated I am with myself and with the Couch to 5K program.  The "Chickie's & Pete's Boardwalk 5K" and the fun weekend in AC deserve their own blog post. I don't have time to write it and it deserves to be written when I'm feeling more positive.

Until Tuesday of last week (8/19), it seemed like everything was going well in the Couch to 5K program.  I'd repeated week 3, which is:

Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then do two repetitions of the following:
  • Jog 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Walk 200 yards (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 400 yards (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 400 yards (or three minutes)
But toward the end of the second week I was stretching the three minute runs into 5-minute runs and everything was going well.  

So, week 4:

Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:
  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 2-1/2 minutes)
  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
 I did one perfect version of this, on Sunday 8/17, with an extra 3-minute run tacked on the end to bring me back to my car.  I tried again on Tuesday, and was able to complete it, but just felt bad during the run and my legs felt awful for several days after. 

I rested the rest of the week, knowing that the 5K was coming on Saturday.

On Saturday, I completed the 5K, running half a mile walking a minute, repeat.  Legs were sore, but normal, good soreness.  My normal, pre-injury 5K time was around  27 minutes.  We finished the 5K in 45.

Today, I tried to do the same run/walk intervals as the 5K (intending only 2 miles, since I'm trying to train at my roughly my pre-injury training pace, which is closer to a 10:00/mile) and within the first 1/3 of a mile, I was wheezing as if I'd never run before in my life.  My legs felt fine, I just couldn't breathe.

I'm hoping it's just because I forgot my allergy medicine last night and because I tried to run this at the VERY hilly park near our house (I was wheezing way before I hit the big hills, though.)

Meanwhile, though, I think it's back to "Week 3" for a pretty frustrated me.  By the end of "Week 5", I'm supposed to be able to run 2 miles with no walk breaks.  Even before the bad runs last Tuesday and today, I feel like I'm more than a week away from being able to do that.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Road is Calling; Today is the Day

It's the middle of August and the temperature was in the low 50s for my run this morning.  Beautiful.  What is not as nice is the last two weeks of running.  Week Three of C25K gets quite a bit harder:  walk 5 minutes, run 90 seconds, walk 90 seconds, run 3 minutes, walk 3 minutes, run 90 seconds, walk 90 seconds, run 3 minutes.

Three minutes is a big step up from 90 seconds and I repeated this week twice.  The second week of it was a struggle: Tuesday my sister alternated 3 minutes walking with 3 minutes running for about 30 minutes; Thursday I kept to plan, but my lungs felt so bad; and today I kicked butt --- substituting 5 minute runs for the three minute runs and feeling pretty well.

I forgot how tough and frustrating running could be, especially when starting out, but this is still just the start of a new story...

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Bilateral Compartment Syndrome Surgery and Recovery

As I've run less and less over the past few years, these blog posts have become less frequent.  But in those few blog posts there's a lot of space given to complaining about (mostly) and trying to recover from compartment syndrome.  After two years of trying avoid surgery, I finally decided to go under the knife.  I described the lead-up to surgery a few months ago.  Now that I'm (hopefully!) well on the road to recovery, although not nearly as far back on the road to racing again, I figured I'd take the rare opportunity to write a blog post that might actually be informative.

To very briefly recap, I started having symptoms in December 2011. I'd have swelling and discomfort in my ankles and calves, more pronounced in the left one, and a noticeable loss of range of motion.  Shinsplints were the initial diagnosis, with compartment syndrome being the next "option" when my problems didn't really respond to the main treatment of shinsplits (rest).  Any time I took a few months off from running, I'd come back and my symptoms would be better, only to come back every time I got back into some consistency of running.  That's why I won't know if this surgery worked for a few more months.

At any rate, a compartment pressure test confirmed the diagnosis in Spring 2013, and I tried a long program of PT to avoid surgery.  No luck.  I had surgery on May 15, 2014.


As I said in that initial post-surgery blog post, I woke up in a fog of post-anesthesia and painkillers, definitely in pain, but not as bad as I feared.


(a few hours post-surgery)

Despite that, those first few days were bad.  I frequently felt nauseous from the vicodin, and when I moved my legs, I would feel a tearing sensation in my legs in the area of the surgery.  If I touched those areas, they would feel hot to the touch, although I think that burning sensation was in my legs, and not actually heat that I was feeling, since my legs were pretty heavily bandaged at this point.  I limped around the house on crutches.  I expected to sleep like a rock that first night, but got very little sleep, and because of that I probably crutched my way around the house too much.  I had big ice packs that I'd wear over my legs (or wrap around them with velcro as I got a little more able to sleep in different positions) for long stretches of time for the next several weeks.

Still, just two days after my surgery, I was at least out of the house for a quick Dunkin Donuts trip.  It probably wasn't worth the discomfort I was in going up and down the stairs or how long it took me to get from the car to Dunkin, but I'd wanted very badly to get out of the house, and my Dr. had said it would be ok to try things like this as long as I was careful.

I'd love to say I got better every day, but there were good days and bad days over the next few weeks.  I felt "pretty good" a week after surgery when I went for my post-surgery consult.  The doctor said everything looked good and that the procedure had gone well, and that I could start to s l o w l y ween myself from the crutches...which would go more slowly than I'd hoped. I was to start out by trying to get around the house without them, but using them when I went outside. 

(Looking great 7 days post-surgery)

I had my surgery on a Thursday, and went back to work the following Wednesday.  It's important to note that I work from home.  If I didn't, I probably would have wanted the whole next week, and it was probably another two weeks before I could really sit at my desk in my upstairs office comfortably.  My legs were most comfortable stretched out in front of me, and there wasn't really a comfortable way to do that at my desk. I could work downstairs on the couch, but I wanted to be up in my office as much as possible so that I could receive calls on my work phone line.  People at work have my cel number, but if that got established, even for a short time, as my "main" number, I thought that would be very hard to put back  in the bag.  

I also had a massive gout the Thursday after surgery.  My gout flares up, usually in one of my big toes, a few times each year, but it seemed especially bad in the weeks after my surgery.  If I didn't drink a ton of water (and even sometimes if I did), I'd have gout flare-ups the next day.  My orthopedist would later say that for gout suffers, it's not uncommon for them to be more susceptible to flare-ups after surgery. And I was stupid -- I think it was because the day of my surgery through Tuesday, I'd drank massive amounts of water -- oceans of water -- every day.  But once I went back to work, I wasn't drinking as much...since I couldn't carry cups of water up to my office with my crutches.  Sports bottles were the easy remedy for this. 

The second weekend after surgery was Memorial Day weekend, and I pushed myself too hard. Chris and I went to an outdoor music and wine event at a local winery with some friends, and I walked around more than I should have -- and tried to be more independent than I should have been.  My attitude was getting pretty bad at this point.  I didn't want to be dropped off closer to where we were sitting.  I didn't want to not be allowed to carry anything while Chris made multiple trips.  The next day, we went out to eat in downtown York, and walked 2 blocks from the parking garage.  These adventures definitely set me back a little, and I was tired and sore over the next few days, and on crutches more often than not, even around the house.

I'd taken vicodin -- one in the morning and one at night -- on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and then generally stopped.  I didn't want to continue it longer than I had to because it's addictive, and because I stopped it so quickly, I'm not sure that I'd say it helped a lot.  I did take them the day of my gout flare-up and then for a few days following the Memorial Day adventures.  I took one vicodin twice a day, half the prescribed dose, at my Dr.'s suggestion, since the anesthesia had knocked me out so easily.  Like I said, it's hard to tell if one vicodin at a time really helped.  I took two the day of my gout flare-up, when I was just in agony, and two vicodin definitely made a difference.  Not entirely good, though, I felt VERY spaced out and nauseous.


(My right leg on May 28.  My right leg had the worse swelling of the two, 
and looked worse here than it did a week after surgery.)




Once the calendar turned to June, I turned the corner.  I was walking mostly with crutches, driving short distances again, and feeling much better.  My ankles were still very swollen, but I was making steady progress forward.  At my second post-op appointment on June 11, my doctor said it would be ok to start light exercise with no resistance (Chris and I started going for walks), but I was still about a month away from running.  I went way for a long weekend with college friends, walked a ton and drove all around Philly and Atlantic City, and needed my ice packs, but was ok. 


At my third and final post-op, on July 16, my Dr. told me I had no restrictions, and that I could start running again.  

So where am I today?  So far, my legs feel mostly fine.  My left leg -- which was the worse-afflicted with compartment syndrome -- is better than the right leg.  On my right leg, I've got some numb spots (which are a known risk of the surgery, they might never heal) and a little bit of swelling around the ankle.  I have 3 incisions on each leg, and the ones on the outside of my ankles are the ones that bother me most, because they continue to be persistently itchy as they continue to heal.

Did I make the right choice?  Here, 2.5 months later, I'm confident that I did.  If I keep running, and my symptoms return, then there was another contributing factor and it's back to the drawing board and probably off the racing circuit, but I'll worry about that in a few months.  

Right now, it's time to run.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Running Week 1, 2.0

I've finished the first week of the Couch-to-5K program.  I know, everyone line up for the parade.  But I have to blog about something, right?  (I do owe any readers that I might still have a longer post about the recovery from the surgery, since this is my rare chance to actually be informative.)

As proscribed by venerable C25K, I ran 3x last week:  5 minute warm-up walk followed by 15 minutes of alternating one-minute of running with 90 seconds of walking. It went as well as could be expected.  I did my run/walks last Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday.  My legs felt good, but I can tell I'm clearly out of shape, as I really had to catch my breath on the walk breaks.

This morning, I did the first workout of week 2: 5 minute warm-up walk, followed by alternating 90 seconds of running with two minutes walking for 15 minutes.  Both the running and the walking portions seemed interminably long after week 1.

It's way to early to draw any conclusions about my surgery.  I had compartment syndrome.  The pressure test quantitatively showed it.  What we can't say for sure if it was the sole cause of the problems I was having.  I won't be able to tell if I'm "better" until I'm in shape to pretty consistently run at least 2-3 miles a couple times a week.  If I get to that point and after a few weeks of it my symptoms aren't present, then I'm all better.  If they do, it's back to the drawing board. 

However, I think what's going to happen is that I'll wish I'd just have bitten the bullet and had the surgery a year ago.